Frequently Asked Questions
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What is UCR?
UCR is a city, county, and state law enforcement program which provides a nationwhide view of crime based on the submission of statistics by law enforcement agencies throught the country. (UCR Handbook, p.1)
When and How was the program implemented?
In the 1920's, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recognized the potential value in tracking national crime statistics. The Committee on Uniform Crime Records of the IACP developed and initiated this voluntary national data collection effort in 1930 and still continues to advise the FBI on the UCR Program process. During that same year, the IACP was instrumental in gaining Congressional approval which authorized the FBI to serve as the national clearinghouse for statistical information on crime. In June 1966, the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) established a Committee on Uniform Crime Reporting to serve in an advisory capacity and to encourage sheriffs throughout the country to fully participate in the Program. Since 1930, through the UCR Program, the FBI has collected and compiled data to use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management, as well as to indicate fluctuations in the level of crime in America. (UCR Handbook, p.1)
For which categories (e.g. penal, prosecution, arrest, conviction) are statistics collected through the UCR Program?
To best depict total crime and to provide the most meaningful data to police administrators, it was determined that the UCR Program would specifically collect data on known offenses and persons arrested by police departments. Findings of a court, coroner, jury, or the decision of a prosecutor are not recorded since the intent of the data collection is specifically to assist in identifying the law enforcement problem. (UCR Handbook, p. 2, 5)
Which specific crimes are reported to the UCR Program, and why were these crimes identified for reporting?
The selected offenses are 1) Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter, 2) Forcible Rape, 3) Robbery, 4) Aggravated Assault, 5) Burglary, 6) Larceny-Theft, 7) Motor Vehicle Theft, and 8) Arson. These are serious crimes by nature and/or volume. Not all crimes, such as Embezzlement, are readily brought to the attention of the police. Also, some serious crimes, such as Kidnapping, occur infrequently. Therefore, for practical purposes, the reporting of offenses known is limited to the selected crime classifications because they are the crimes most likely to be reported and most likely to occur with sufficient frequency to provide an adequate basis for comparison. Arson was not originally part of the crime reporting process. Arson became the eighth Index crime as the result of a limited Congressional mandate in October 1978. With the passage of the Anti-Arson Act of 1982, Arson was permanently designated as reportable. (UCR Handbook, p. 2)
What is the Crime Index total?
The Crime Index total is the sum of selected offenses used to gauge fluctuations in the overall volume and rate of crime reported to law enforcement. The offenses included in the Crime Index total are the violent crimes of Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter, Forcible Rape, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault, and the property crimes of Burglary, Larceny-theft, and Motor Vehicle Theft. Because they are not consistently available, Arson figures are not included in the Crime Index total. Arson figures are added to the Crime Index total figures to obtain the Modified Crime Index total. (Crime in the United States, 1995, p. 5)
Is UCR participation mandatory?
Participation in the National UCR Program is strictly voluntary. (Crime in the United States, 1995, p. 1)
To what extent are crime statistics reported to the UCR Program?
During 1995, law enforcement agencies active in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program represented nearly 251 mil-lion United States inhabitants or 95 percent of the Nation's total population. (Crime in the United States, 1995, p. 1)
How are crimes estimated for publication in Crime in the United States?
Due to the fact that not all law enforcement agencies provide complete data for a given year, it is sometimes necessary for the UCR Program to generate crime estimates at the local, state, and national levels. Using the known crime experiences of similar areas within a state, the estimates are computed by assigning the same proportional crime volumes to non-reporting agencies. The size of an agency, type of jurisdiction, e.g., police department versus sheriff's office, and geographic location are considered in the estimation process. A similar procedure is used for national arrest estimates.
Are agency populations provided by the Bureau of the Census?
Bureau of the Census population figures are used. Otherwise, population figures for individual jurisdictions are estimated by the UCR Program in noncensus years. For example, in 1995 population figures for individual jurisdictions were updated by applying their 1995 state population growth rates to their 1994 population estimates.
Is there any program in operation which attempts to address unreported crime?
Understanding the nature of unreported crime is an important dimension in the overall effort to combat crime. The U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) estimates the number of unreported serious crimes nation-wide.
How do UCR and NCVS differ from one another?
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) were designed to complement each other. The UCR Program's primary objective is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration, operation, and management, as well as to indicate fluctuations in the level of crime in America. The NCVS was established to obtain and provide previously unavailable information about victims, offenders, and crime (including crime not reported to the police). While the two programs employ different methodologies, they measure a similar subset of serious crimes.
Have there been any recent changes or developments in the UCR Program?
Arson was not originally part of the crime reporting process. Arson became the eighth Index crime as the result of a limited Congressional mandate in October 1978. With the passage of the Anti-Arson Act of 1982, Arson was permanently designated as reportable.
In response to a growing concern about hate crimes, in 1990 Congress enacted the "Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990" which resulted in the UCR Program collection of data ". . . about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual-orientation, or ethnicity . . ." Although the mandate required data collection for only five years, the collection of hate crime data has become a permanent addition to the UCR Program. In September 1994, the Hate Crime Statistics Act was amended to include bias against persons with disabilities. In UCR, disability bias is defined as " a preformed negative opinion of or attitude toward a group of persons based on their physical or mental impairments/challenges, whether such disability is temporary or permanent, congenital, or acquired by heredity, accident, injury, advance age, or illness." (Crime in the United States, 1995, Pg. 3, UCR Handbook, p. 2)
What are classifying and scoring?
Classifying is determining the proper crime category in which to report an offense in UCR. Classification is based on facts resulting from an agency's investigation of the crime. Scoring is counting the number of offenses after they have been classified and entering the total on the appropriate reporting form.
Classifying and scoring are the two most essential functions performed by a participant in the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The data provided to the UCR Program are based on these two functions and, subsequently, are only as good as an agency's effort to follow UCR guidelines. (UCR Handbook, p. 33)
What is the Hierarchy Rule?
The Hierarchy Rule states: In a multiple-offense situation (i.e., one where several offenses are committed at the same timeand place), after classifying all Part I offenses, score only the highest ranking offense, and ignore all others, regardless of thenumber of offenders and victims. (UCR Handbook, p. 33)
Example:Incident: During the commission of an armed bank robbery, the offender strikes a teller with the butt of a handgun. The robberruns from the bank and steals an automobile at curb side. Classification: Robbery, Aggravated Assault, and Motor Vehicle Theft are three Part I offenses apparent in this situation. Each ofthese offenses appears on the report listed in a certain order, and of these three crimes, Robbery is the "highest" on the list.Therefore, this incident would be classified as Robbery, and, accordingly, one offense would be scored. All of the other offenseswould be ignored. (UCR Handbook, p. 33)
Are there any exceptions to the Hierarchy Rule?
Yes. The Hierarchy Rule does not apply to Arson, which is always reported, even in multiple-offense situations. In addition, when Larceny and Motor Vehicle Theft occur in a multiple offense situation, Motor Vehicle Theft is always reported over Larceny. Other multiple offense exceptions to the Hierarchy Rule occur with instances of Justifiable Homicide. (UCR Handbook, p. 6, 7, 35, 57)
How can an offense be cleared?
Part I offenses reported on the Return A of a UCR report can be cleared either by arrest or exceptional means. (UCR Handbook, p. 41)
How is a crime cleared by arrest?
An offense is "cleared by arrest" or solved for crime reporting purposes when at least one person is (1) arrested, or (2) charged with the commission of the offense and turned over to the court for prosecution (whether following arrest, court summons, or police notice). Although no physical arrest is made, a clearance by arrest can be claimed when the offender is a per-
son under 18 years of age and is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities.
Several crimes may be cleared by the arrest of one person, or the arrest of many persons may clear only one crime. Further, if several persons are involved in the commission of a crime and only one is arrested and charged, the crime is listed on the Return A as cleared by arrest. When the other persons involved in the crime are arrested at a later date, no record will be made of a clearance by arrest since the offense was already cleared following the arrest of the first person.
The number of offenses and not the number of persons arrested are counted in the clearances recorded on the Return A. No more clearances than offenses can be reported in a given month unless clearance of offenses which were reported in previous months are being scored. (UCR Handbook, p. 41-42)
What is an exceptional clearance?
In certain situations, law enforcement is not able to follow the steps outlined under "clearance by arrest" to clear offenses known to them, even though all leads have been exhausted, and everything possible has been done in order to obtain a clearance. For crime reporting purposes, if the following questions can all be answered "yes," the offense can then be cleared "exceptionally."
1. Has the investigation definitely established the identity of the offender?
2. Is there enough information to support an arrest, charge, and turning over to the court for prosecution?
3. Is the exact location of the offender known so that the subject could be taken into custody now?
4. Is there some reason outside law enforcement control that precludes arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender? (UCR Handbook, p. 42)